You have most likely heard the saying “Communication is a two way street” which is absolutely true. However, I happen to like Eleanore Roosevelt’s version of this saying which was ” Understanding is a two-way street”.
We can communicate our needs, wants and thoughts all day long but if we are not communicating it in a way that the other person clearly understands, your message can get lost in translation.
Often we take short cuts when we are communicating and make assumptions that the other person understands what we mean. For instance, my receptionist can say to me “Your 2:00 is here” and I assume she is saying “Your client who booked a 2:00 appointment is in the waiting room” I have filled in her communication gaps with my interpretation of her meaning.
As we speak, our listener is interpreting our words and mentally reconstructing the speakers experience. This reconstruction may or may not be accurate.
In his book “Communication Skills Training” author Ian Tuhovsky accurately states “The ability of effective communication consists of:
- Understanding of others (and showing it)
- Clear expression of oneself
- Imposing an influence on others
- Active Listening
- Asking open and detailed questions
- Taking care of our own needs and goals during a conversation
- Exchanging opinions in a non-conflicting way”
I decided to create a Communication Series to expand on some of these points because each one is a great topic in and of itself.
In this post I thought I would touch on the ability to clearly express oneself.
A good communicator will express what they need, why they need it and how this need impacts themselves and the person they are communicating with. Sounds easy enough but as mentioned earlier, we often leave gaps in our communication and expect others to pick up on our meanings.
What we need to do is create more accuracy for the listener which can be accomplished by adding more facets or dimensions of what you are expressing to make it easier for the listener to grasp.
According to various communication researchers, there are 5 main dimensions that we use when we are listening to someone to help us recreate their experience. As the speaker, the more dimensions or elements you use, the higher the probability that the listener will match your experience. These 5 dimensions are referred to as “Messages” and you will see from the steps below you communicate the 5 messages in sequence. It eventually becomes a communication “flow”. The result is you have clearly expressed yourself and the listener has greater understanding.
And it all begins with “I statements”….
Message: Seeing, hearing…
Step 1 – Express what you are seeing, hearing or otherwise sensing (facts only)
Example – “When I see you working through your lunch hour….”
Step 2 – Express what emotions you are feeling
Example: “…I feel really concerned…”
Message: because I …
Step 3 – Express what interpretations, wants, needs, memories of yours support these feelings
Example – “…because I imagine you will eventually get burned out”
Message: and now I want…
Step 5 – Express what action, information or commitment you want now
Example – “… I want you to promise me that you will take your lunch break”
Message: so that…
Step 6 – Express what positive results will that action, information or commitment lead to in the future
Example – “…so that you can give your brain and body the break it needs and have energy for the afternoon”
Here are your 5 messages streamed together:
“When I see you working through your lunch hour, I feel really concerned because I image you will eventually get burned out. So I want you to promise me that you will take your lunch break so that you can give your brain and body the break it needs and have energy for the afternoon.”
This is so much clearer than if you were to have said “I think you should take a break”
By the way, although you might want to shorten the version DON’T.
With a little practice, the longer version will begin to feel comfortable and the entire 7 seconds longer it takes to communication is well worth the time and effort. After all, you don’t want to be just a “good” communicator – you want to be GREAT.